Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Giuseppe Mottet

Photo kindly via Roger Juglair.

Date Decoration Note
??/??/38 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare O.M.S.
??/??/?? Medaglia d’argento al valor aeronautico  
??/??/41 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare 1940-43

Giuseppe Mottet was born in Fontanemore (Aosta) on 12 September 1912.

Two years later the whole Mottet family moved to Paris reaching the father who was already there, working as a co-owner (together with his brothers) of a repair shop and a Taxi service.

Mottet showed great interest for both sports and mechanic and on 24 August 1934 obtained the French flight licence, a difficult document and certainly not a cheap one!

On April 1935, Mottet left Paris and came back to Italy, enrolling in the Regia Aeronautica.
He was given immediately the rank of Sergente pilota, without having to follow any courses and in a few months he had managed to be checked out on the Fiat CR.30 and CR.32. He was thus assigned to 3o Stormo in Malpensa.

In 1937, he volunteered for the Spanish Civil War and was assigned to 20a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo "Asso Di Bastoni", flying Fiat CR.32s.

On 2 June 1937, he claimed an I-15 over Segovia.

Allegedly bad weather prevented both sides from flying on all Fronts on 6 June. However, this didn’t prevent Mottet (20a Squadriglia) to claim a shared SB over Escorial.

On 6 July, the 19a and 20a Squadriglie participated in four separate aerial battles near Brunete, engaging Republican formations twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.
Three light bombers, one ‘Martin bomber’, seven ‘Curtiss fighters’ and five ’Ratas’ were claimed, but Sottotenente Vercellio from the 19a Squadriglia was killed during the third encounter. Sergente Mottet (20a Squadriglia) claimed one of the I-15s. One of the I-16s destroyed was credited to Maggiore Andrea Zotti (CO XXIII Gruppo) as his first victory, its pilot taking to his parachute over the battlefield at Villanueva de la Cañada. Another ’Rata’ downed minutes later was credited to Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO 19a Squadriglia), who subsequently recalled:

“Each one of us chose his quarry and the melee began. Our guns splendidly spat out a barrage, and our adversaries replied in kind. It was a matter of life or death. I pounced on a Rata and shot at it. It appeared that I had scored a direct hit. I kept following him until I thought that he was clearly falling away. However, as I broke off my chase he zigzagged, dropped a little further and then climbed. He attempted to turn onto my tail, so I quickly hit him again. He pulled up abruptly after diving down a few hundred feet, so I fired at him once more. It looked to me as if the bullets had found their mark – the tracers clearly indicated that I was aiming correctly – but the Rata pilot continued to defend himself.
I persevered with my foe, despite now feeling that I was possibly coming under attack. I looked over my shoulder and spotted three enemy aeroplanes, still at a distance, heading in my direction with their guns blazing. Moments later my prey finally fell headlong into a thickly wooded area. Staying with him had made me lose precious height, and as I looked up I could see that the fighting was still continuing above me.
I climbed back up into the battle at full throttle, and saw a “Red” aeroplane chasing a Fiat. Turning tightly, I managed to get in behind the pursuing fighter. He then tried to disengage, but I made the most of my superior position and fired several long bursts at him. I succeeded in forcing him to take flight. Other enemy survivors duly abandoned the fight, and we reformed on our leader after he waggled his wings. We all landed with visible scars of battle on our aircraft.”
The pilot that had been shot down by Capitano Degli Incerti was almost certainly Leitenant Aleksey Sergeyevich Trusov, who had been in Spain for just a matter of weeks.
A third I-16 was claimed over Villanueva de la Cañada by Tenente Bruno Trevisan (19a Squadriglia). This was probably Leitenant Grigorii Nikolaevich Khozyainov of 2a/21, who force-landed his damaged I-16 (#35) in Nationalist territory and was taken prisoner (according to some sources Khozyainov was shot down on 8 July). Khozyainov was released and returned home on 7 February 1939.

In the early morning on 7 July, Kapitan Ivan Yeremenko was ordered to take off at 07:00 with his escuadrilla (1a/26) and fly towards Madrid to join with Lakeyev’s Escuadrilla (1a/21) in the air. Meanwhile the escuadrilla of Aleksandr Minayev (3a/21) was flying over the front line. The antiaircraft defence opened fire upon the Republican fighters over the Delicias railroad station. Fiat CR.32s appeared from the Princess Bridge side. Dogfights began over the Delicias railroad station, Andalusia Bridge, and Tobacco Manufacture. A group of Ju 52/3ms and Do 17s appeared from the western side and Minayev’s escuadrilla flew to intercept the bombers but Fiats attacked the I-15s and dispersed them.
Sargento José Redondo Martín, the Spanish pilot of one of the I-15s, was wounded and Leitenant Leonid Rybkin shielded him, but both were forced to fight nine Fiats. One Fiat collided with another and was set on fire; it was in fact credited to Rybkin. Rybkin and Redondo joined with M. Petrov and I. Karpov whom had flown to help. At that moment Leitenant Mikhail Yakushin, Kapitan Yeremenko, and Starshii Leitenant Anatoly Serov of the 1a Escuadrilla attacked the leading group of Fiats from above. One Fiat was shot down and the pilot bailed out (claimed as a shared between Yakushin, Yeremenko, and Serov). Pilots of I-15s and I-16s had seen four Bf 109s in the area, but they did not attack the Republican fighter.
The I-15 of the Austrian Walter Koraus was attacked by a Fiat and was shot down. Yakushin immediately attacked this Fiat and destroyed it in the air.
Starshii Leitenant Serov claimed two more CR.32 during this day while Bozidar Petrovich claimed a CR.32 in the Madrid-Brunete area.
It seems that three I-15s from the 1a/26 were lost, with Karpov killed, Shalhiganov wounded and Austrian Walter Koraus surviving unscathed. Flight leader Serov and his wingman Yakushin managed to nurse their badly damaged biplanes back to base. Nikolai Aleksandrovich D’yakonov, who was leading an I-16 flight, suffered serious wounds in combat possibly from Capitano Degli Incerti’s gunfire, and he died later that day after landing in Republican territory.
The Aviazione Legionaria reported that during the morning between Madrid and Brunete, 14 CR.32s of 19a and 20a Squadriglie, led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti (CO XXIII Gruppo), encountered nine I-15s and eight I-16s that were escorting nine R-Zs. The Republican aircraft were joined by other flights from a formation of 20 I-16s as they flew over Madrid. Italian pilots were credited with shooting down seven ‘Curtiss fighters’ during the clash, one of which was claimed by Maggiore Zotti. Three ’Ratas’ were also destroyed, one of which was credited to Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO 19a Squadriglia), while Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei downed an R-Z but was then forced to take to his parachute after his CR.32 was hit by return fire from the R-Z. He landed in Nationalist territory near Pozuelo de Alarcón.
After claiming his I-15, Zotti shared the destruction of a second I-15 with his two wingmen. Ten minutes later, however, his CR.32 was shot up by an I-16, the Italian being wounded in the thigh. His engine was also hit, and as it began to overheat Zotti was forced to land at nearby Griñon airfield. Sergente Maggiore Gino Passeri (19a Squadriglia) protected his CO until he was safely down, only to then be bounced by another I-16 upon re-joining the battle and killed. Sergente Giuseppe Ruzzin (19a Squadriglia) (CR.32 “3-12” no. 435) claimed an I-15 (”Curtiss”) but was then attacked by an I-16. He was saved by his leader Capitano Degli Incerti, who damaged the Rata, which quickly broke off. Sergente Mottet (20a Squadriglia) claimed an I-15.
Totally after this confusing and slightly contradicting battle it seems that the Republican pilots at least claimed six CR.32s while losing three I-15s and getting several damaged. The Aviazione Legionaria claimed seven I-15s, three I-16s and one R-Z for the loss of two CR.32s.
It seems that Republican I-16s also took part in this combat but no claims nor losses has been found.

On 27 July, he claimed a shared I-16 over Madrid.

A shared Tupolev SB-2 bomber was claimed on 24 August over Escorial.

On 12 October, the Republican Air Force intervened heavily to support International battalions and tanks in an attempt to break through the enemy lines at Fuentes del Ebro.
During the day, the VI Gruppo lost a good part of numerical, considering that part of the 31a Squadriglia had previously been detached to Córdoba. Therefore, immediately the same morning, the Comando dell’Aviazione Legionaria ordered the XXIII Gruppo to transfer to Sanjurio (Zaragoza).
At 10.30, 29 CR.32s led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, took off from Almaluèz and arrived over Sanjurio around noon. However, before landing, Maggiore Zotti decided to lead his pilots to explore the area between Villafranca and Fuentes del Ebro. Here they spotted four Polikarpov RZ “Natachas” escorted by nine I-16s “Ratas” (above them) and 15 I-15 “Curtiss” (below them). The Italian fighters attacked the Republican aircraft and at the end of the dogfight, that lasted about fifteen minutes, the Italians claimed seven (eleven according to other sources) fighters destroyed for no losses, although several CR.32s were hit and damaged. Combat was very hard for the Italians because their fighters were weighted by pilots’ personal luggage. Pilots that scored, either individually or jointly, were Maggiore Zotti (1 I-15), Sergente Mottet (20a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Giampiero Del Prete, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO of the 20a Squadriglia), Sergente Francesco Penna, Sottotenente Aldo Felici, Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO of the 19a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Pio Tomaselli (19a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Franco Lucchini (19a Squadriglia), Capitano Guido Nobili (CO of the 18a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Carmello, Sergente Carlo Dentis, Sottotenente Giuseppe Enrico Zuffi, Sergente Federico Tassinari (19a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei and Sottotenente Bruno Trevisan (19a Squadriglia). It seems that Lucchini’s, Tassinari’s and Mattei’s claims was a shared between these three pilots.
Mottet’s claim was his last in Spain.

Mottet flew about 90 missions during his tour in Spain, for the main part escort flights to bombers and field protection sorties. He was involved in ten combats with Republican aircraft.
At the end of his tour of operations in Spain, Mottet had received two decorations for gallantry and was assigned to 53o Stormo based in Caselle (Torino).

He managed to be chosen as a member of the acrobatic flying-team of the unit and he received an official note of praise for the courage and ability shown during the exhibitions in Rome when Hitler visited Italy.

In 1939 he suddenly received an order to transfer to the 411a Squadriglia in Africa Orientale Italiana (A.O.I.) (Eastern Africa). Before leaving however, he managed to be checked out on the Fiat CR.42 and (highly unusual for a fighter pilot) on the Savoia Marchetti S.79.
He arrived at Addis Abeba on 30 August.

Giuseppe Mottet during his time in A.O.I.
Photo kindly via Roger Juglair.

From 10 June 1940 until the surrender of Gondar (27 November 1941) his logs reported reconnaissance flights, strafings and aerial dogfights. The main operations flown by Mottet were ground support to the Italian troops, and he received another official citation for his determination in effecting the missions.

He took part in a strafing mission against enemy airfields on 7 August.

On 14 November 1940 he flew as number two in a section of two aircraft when they were involved in combat with four unknown enemy aircraft over Gimma airfield. Three of the aircraft were claimed shot down and this was later confirmed.
Maggiore Malavolti, the Squadriglia commander, described this incident in his commendation to Mottet's Medaglia d'argento al valor militare.
These claims have not been possible to verify against British sources.
Since Mottet's sixth claim hasn't been possible to find it is possible that he claimed one of the aircraft. It is however also possible that the aircraft were claimed as shared or all by the other pilot.

On 9 December he took part in a strafing mission and returned to his base with a damaged aircraft.

On 9 April 1941, he was engaged by Hurricanes over Gimma while defending the base flying a Fiat CR.32 together with another fighter.
Captain Frost and Lieutenant Howitson of 3 SAAF Squadron, whom engaged him in a hard dogfight, shot him down. During the combat a burst of fire cut the Fiat's controls. Mottet attempted to land but in doing so he collided with an obstruction and crashed. The aircraft was a write off but Mottet was unhurt.
Mottet claimed that he had been involved in combat with six Hurricanes and that he had damaged two of them. In fact there had been five Hurricanes, three strafing the airfield (and later also shooting down the second CR.32) while Frost's section consisting of him and Howitson provided cover.
3 SAAF Squadron didn't sustain any losses.

With the inevitable worsening of the military situation, since the start of 1941 all the main Italian strongholds fell one after another. The only left was Gondar where, since May 1941, considering the fighter flown there by Mottet from Somalia, the Regia Aeronautica was composed by three CR.42s and one transport Ca.133.

Due to the scarceness of ammunitions in the theatre he modified with the help of his mechanics his CR.42 by deleting one 12.7mm machine-gun and replacing it with a 7.7mm one.

On 2 July 1941 Mottet and Sergente Maggiore Antonia Giardinà claimed one shared Vickers Wellesley. This was Wellesley L2713 of 47 Squadron, which was shot down over Gondar, the aircraft falling in flames. The pilot Sergeant Alexander George Brown (RAF No. 564096) and his crew were all killed.
Brown, aged 28, and his crew are buried at Asmara War Cemetery, Eritrea.

On 9 July five Wellesleys of 47 Squadron raided Gondar. Mottet alone intercepted the raid and claimed one of the bombers shot down.
In fact one of the bombers were slightly damaged.

In a report from 411a Squadriglia on 11 August it was reported that he had flown 160 hours of combat missions from 22 August 1939 to date.

On 15 October he was promoted to Maresciallo at Gondar.

From 31 October, after the death of his CO Tenente Malavolti, he was the only Italian fighter pilot in A.O.I.

On 22 November 1941 the last CR.42 (MM4033) in A.O.I., flown by Mottet, was sent out and attacked British artillery at Kulkaber. Lieutenant Colonel Ormsby, the CRA, was killed with the one burst of fire it fired. This was Regia Aeronauticas last sortie to be flown in the East African campaign.
Upon landing, he destroyed the CR.42 and joined the Italian troops, fighting until the surrender five days later.

During his time in AOI he was decorated with the Medaglia d'argento al valor militare.

Giuseppe Mottet during his time in A.O.I.
Photo kindly via Roger Juglair.

Mottet ended the war with 6 biplane victories and a total of 6 destroyed.

When the war ended in 1945, Giuseppe Mottet came back from prison and asked to again join the Italian Air Force. This was accepted and he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and was then assigned to Lecce Flying School, flying with Macchi C.205s.

On 1948 Mottet was promoted to Captain and assigned to 5o Stormo Caccia in Vicenza, equipped with Spitfire Mk.IXs.

On 30 March 1950, while flying a training flight with a new pilot, the engine of his Mk.IXc MM.4025 caught fire. Captain Mottet kept on flying to avoid baling out over Vicenza thus risking that the plane could crash in the city. He instead managed to nurse the smoking plane back to the airfield but, while making the last turn to land, the engine seized and Mottet was forced to attempt a crash landing in a field. Unfortunately one wing hit some trees and the Spitfire crashed. Mottet was extracted from the wreck still alive but in desperate conditions and he died a few hours later.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 02/06/37   1 I-15 Destroyed CR.32   Segovia 20a Squadriglia
  06/06/37   1/? SB Shared destroyed CR.32   Escorial 20a Squadriglia
2 06/07/37   1 I-15 Destroyed CR.32   Brunete area 20a Squadriglia
3 07/07/37 07:00- 1 I-15 (a) Destroyed CR.32   Brunete area 20a Squadriglia
  24/07/37   1/? I-16 Shared destroyed CR.32   Madrid 20a Squadriglia
  24/08/37   1/? SB Shared destroyed CR.32   Escorial 20a Squadriglia
4 12/10/37 10:30- 1 I-16 Destroyed CR.32   Villafranca-Fuentes del Ebro 20a Squadriglia
5? 14/11/40   1 Enemy aircraft (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Gimma airfield 411a Squadriglia
  14/11/40   1 Enemy aircraft (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Gimma airfield 411a Squadriglia
  14/11/40   1 Enemy aircraft (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Gimma airfield 411a Squadriglia
  09/04/41   1 Hurricane (c) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Gimma airfield 411a Squadriglia
  09/04/41   1 Hurricane (c) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Gimma airfield 411a Squadriglia
  02/07/41   1/2 Wellesley (d) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gondar 411a Squadriglia
6 09/07/41   1 Wellesley (e) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gondar 411a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 6 and at least 4 shared destroyed, 2 damaged.
TOTAL: 6 and at least 4 shared destroyed, 2 damaged.
(a) In this confusing battle it seems that the Republican pilots at least claimed 6 CR.32s while losing 3 I-15s and getting several damaged. The Aviazione Legionaria claimed 7 I-15s, 3 I-16s and 1 R-Z for the loss of 2 CR.32s.
(b) These claims have not been possible to verify against British sources. Since Mottet's sixth claim hasn't been possible to find it is possible that he claimed one of the aircraft. It is however also possible that the aircraft were claimed as shared or all by the other pilot.
(c) Claimed in combat with 3 SAAF Squadron, who didn't sustain any losses.
(d) Wellesley L2713 of 47 Squadron shot down over Gondar. The pilot Sergeant A. G. Brown and his crew were all killed.
(e) One Wellesley of 47 Squadron slightly damaged.

Most information by Roger Juglair kindly provided by Ferdinando D'Amico.
Ali in Spagna - Giuseppe Federico Ghergo and Angelo Emiliani, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ali nella tragedia - Giulio Lazzati, 1970 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-2132-9, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999
Aviatori Italiani - Franco Pagliano, 1964 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Aviabrigada X - Alfredo Logoluso, 2001 no. 97, 98 and 99 of Storia Militare (October-December 2001), kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1992 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Le giovani aquile – Antonio Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Soviet airmen in the Spanish civil war 1936-1939 - Paul Whelan, 2014 Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7643-0
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Extracts from the flight-log of Serg. Pil. MOTTET Giuseppe - Historical Air Branch of the Italian Air Force via Roger Juglair kindly provided by Ferdinando D'Amico.

Last modified 15 November 2023